December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain school levy averts takeover by the state for time being

LORAIN — History and the economy were working against it, but Issue 39, a 4.8-mill property tax levy for Lorain Schools, prevailed.

Supporters credit Tuesday’s passage to high turnout for the presidential election, including more younger voters, the relatively small size of the levy and the recent hiring of Lorain native Tom Tucker as superintendent.

“It was a combination, the sum of all of those things,” Board of Education President Tim Williams said Wednesday. “With the economy what it is, people are struggling to just pay bills, so we are most appreciative and grateful.”

Passage, which came during the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression, was the first for a new levy since 1992 and came after five rejections since 2008. The lack of local taxpayer money combined with shrinking state taxpayer money and increased competition from charter schools and open enrollment led to a $12 million district deficit. About $7.3 million of the deficit was cut this year with 182 employees being laid off along with substantial program cuts.

Among the cuts was full-day kindergarten, which Tucker said will be reinstated in January because of the levy’s passage. The seven-year levy will raise $3.12 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $147 annually.

The money won’t be enough to eliminate the deficit — the district faces the loss of another $2.28 million in state money after an enrollment decline of about 400 students this year — but it delays a state financial takeover which was expected this spring. Treasurer Dale Weber said the district will likely borrow against the anticipated levy revenue to get through the school year, which ends in June.

Williams said Tucker’s August hiring increased public confidence in the district. Tucker spent 28 years in the district before departing in 2008 and served as chief lobbier for the levy.

While elated over the passage, district leaders stress there are still major money problems. Tucker and Williams said cuts at the Charleston Administration Center will occur in June despite passage of the levy.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.